Forgive me for sounding harsh, but “The Hangover III” is such an awful movie that I considered whether it even deserved a review. It almost seems kind of cruel for me to do, since what else can this review be but an indictment of everything wrong with it…which is, pretty much, everything? But I know I have a duty, so I will do my best to convey to you why you should save your $10 for a sandwich instead.
The film’s first scene involves the decapitation of a giraffe, I kid you not, and this–yes, this–is the high point of the movie. From there, it just gets less amusing.
Shortly after the giraffe incident, Alan’s (Zach Galifianakis) father dies. The “Wolfpack” reunites for his funeral and then goes on a road-trip to get Alan treated for mental issues (yes, this happens). On the way, a drug lord kidnaps them; apparently, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) has been making all kinds of trouble, and Alan’s the only one who knows where he is. The gang has three days to find him or else Doug (Justin Bartha) gets it.
This doesn’t sound so bad, but unfortunately, the plot is little more than a series of stunts. A bigger budget proves to be a curse: More sweeping aerial shots and gunfights means less depth and creativity. Jokes are delivered as crude one-liners, leaving no room for well-crafted humor.
What about the magic combination of Stu (Ed Helms), Alan and Phil (Bradley Cooper)? This too, I am afraid, is a casualty of the lazy script. Inexplicably, more attention is paid to the relationship between Alan and Chow, both of whom function best as side dishes, not starring attractions. Alan’s transformation is perhaps the most lamentable: The once lovable weirdo is no more. In his place is a horribly insolent narcissist, my dislike of whom can hardly be put into words. To give you a sense of how mean-spirited Alan 3.0 is, the basis of his budding romance with a pawnshop dealer is their fondness for abusing the elderly. Alas, what the movie lacks is warmth; even in a franchise that celebrates over-the-top-debauchery, the journey simply isn’t fun without Alan and the ragtag trio providing it heart.
I don’t know if I’ve ever left a movie feeling so deflated. Maybe this has less to do with the movie itself and more about accepting the fact that movies are simply not made for us anymore; they are produced for a global market. They are engineered to be as generic as possible so that a kid in Mumbai will understand it just as much as a farmhand in Ukraine. (Apparently, the power of art to make you understand the world through someone else’s eyes means nothing anymore.)
The unfortunate and inevitable truth is that “The Hangover III” will make money, if not here, then overseas. No one will protest (it’s just a movie), and the studios will continue cluttering American theaters with a two-hour trailer of explosions, heart-racing music and quick, panicked cuts, as if the more frenetic a film is, the more it holds our attention.
I can’t help but feel offended: For any work of art, even a blockbuster, there is an unspoken pact between creator and artist. I pay to see your work; you do your best to deliver. This film doesn’t even try. It does even worse: It exploits an audience that was promised a good story. As Alan, Stu and Phil hop from one place to the next in pursuit of Chow, their exasperation mirrors our own. When the trio finally reaches Vegas, it might as well be a different city. Looking up at Caesar’s Palace, Phil wearily sighs, “I can’t believe we’re here again”–but I had the odd sensation that it was actually Bradley Cooper imploring the audience to rescue him from the ashes of cinema.